My Second Boat

Having had a lot of boats, 16 at last count, spanning 40-years, from 1965 to 2005 I could almost be called an authority on the subject. This is the story on how I moved up from a small 14 footer to my second boat, a 16 footer. The old story is true in my case, that as you grow older, “Your toys only get bigger!”

Carrying a load of firewood into my garage, I didn’t see the garage door wasn’t raised all the way. Bam, I ran into it and dropped the load of wood all over. A month later, as soon as my concussion was healed (some say it never was) we took my first boat out for a try at water skiing. The boat was game, but the 40, horse motor was insufficient to get me up on skis, my ex, being 80 pounds lighter, popped right up, but something had to be done about the boat and motor. That something happened the next weekend. Bill Priddy, one of my old West University friends, worked with me and invited us to go water skiing in Lake Houston with him and his date.

We showed up on time, but Bill and his date and Norman Shelter and his date were sitting in the boat. Wouldn’t 6 be too many, I thought as we loaded up everything? Bill’s boat, a 16-foot fiberglass, lap strake, packed a 65, horse motor and turned out to be a skiing delight. A little strained for getting me up with the crowd aboard, but nice.

It was dead calm as I finally cleared the water and began skiing, nice conditions, flat water, no wind and the thought came to me, Why am I being pulled behind this boat when not over 20 miles from here I could be fishing for trout in Trinity Bay? The thought nagged at me, but wore off as the morning wore on.

While Norman was skiing, we noticed a cloud building up over the south end of the lake and soon, pop-crak, thunder, as the lightning hit. We quickly picked up Norman, headed for the launch ramp and were all thinking, That was too close. Before we got the boat loaded, here came the rain and more lightning. Very exciting, but anyway, we were already all wet!

We decided to wait this storm out and sitting in Bill’s car he thought out loud, “I’m going to get rid of this boat and stick with bass fishing.” The boat seemed to be just what I was looking for, a bigger boat with more horsepower and within 2 weeks, I’d sold my first boat and bought Bill’s for $900.00. The price was a steal, 3 years later, when I bought my third boat, an 18-footer, I got a $1,200.00 trade in for it, even with 2 new motors and all, the cost for the new one was only $2,500.00.

Even though we used it for some water skiing, for the next 3 years, this one became my first real, fishing boat. Just learning about where to fish, when to fish, how to fish, boating safety and boat handling, I finally found my second love, fishing! Brad was getting old enough to fish with me and I had ample opportunity to take my dad, “Unkie” and Dub Middleton, each one of the older guys drilled safety into me! My younger friends Bill, Norman, Dewey Stringer and over 10 years later, Bob Baugh all were eager participants too, that is until moving to Arizona and finding about the wonders of quail hunting!

That Was Close

The summer of 1957 found me still boatless and awaiting a 6, week stint at ROTC Camp at Ft. Hood.  The fishing around Galveston Island’s East Beach Flats was still good for small to medium speckled trout, but my fishing buddy, Richard Foster and I had been hearing stories about the fabulous catches behind Earl Galceran’s camp near the old coast Guard Station at the far end of West Galveston Island.  At the time we didn’t have a boat and we couldn’t figure out how to get there.  Earl’s camp was really several thousand acres leased by the high rollers in Houston for dove, quail and duck hunting, plus it had access to some of the best trout water in the state.  No bait was used here, only Dixie Jet silver spoons, with a yellow buck tail attached, my old scared up, spoon, over 50 years old, is pictured below

Like the Rockport and Port O’Conner area today, grass grew in abundance and the holes in the grass reminded me of holes in the moss in fresh water lakes.  Still, how do we get to it?

My fishing buddy, Richard, came up with a good idea, why didn’t he and I go ask Earl Galceran, at the time already a fishing legend, if we could fish behind his place.  We could sight our lack of funds, honesty and Ralph’s newly commissioned status as reasons we could be trusted not to do any damage to his property or equipment, or, we could just go down there and act like members and wave and smile and just wade out and start fishing.  We choose the latter approach, correctly thinking, “Always beg for forgiveness and never ask for permission.”  We would plead ignorance of the private property and say we were just following the road to West Galveston Bay.

Arriving at the open gate to Earl’s place we drove to a parking area, parked, grabbed our rods and stringers and headed for the bay.  Out came Earl Galceran, we smiled and waved, he smiled and waved and went back into his trailer.  Whew!  We must have looked like members.

Reaching the edge of the bay, at our backs a light southeast wind was blowing as we looked out over trout paradise. With a slight ripple on green, clear water with grass growing and swirling right up to the surface, no hesitation as we headed right in.

There was a hard sand/shell bottom and I couldn’t believe the grass, but on my first cast, the spoon landed silently past a hole in the grass.  Beginning a rapid retrieve, whamo, a 3, pound, spec nailed the spoon and the fight was on!  When a big trout hits, you know it, a jarring, pounding, rod bending hit, not the sideways, slow hit of a big red picking up a shrimp.  Landing the trout bare handed, getting a firm grip behind its gills, I slid him on the stringer and looked over at Richard who was in the middle of a fight with a nice fish too.

“This is some place,” exclaiming as I sailed another cast past a likely looking hole in the grass, another hard hit, but the hook pulled out, no fish.  What I didn’t know then, but have since learned, the trout lurk in the grass beside the holes and ambush baitfish as they swim through the open area.

Another cast, another jarring hit, this one’s hooked solid and I was soon stringing another 3 pounder.  Several of my casts caught grass, then, whamo, another fine fish, this spec rolled around on the surface, but soon I was adding it to my stringer. Not 30 minutes of fishing, wonderful conditions, bait in the water, trout all around and Richard and I had a half dozen fine trout, solid 3 pounders.

Wait a minute my stringer was caught on something.  That something hits my leg.  That something was a shark!  “Shark,” I yelled, stepping back and looking down at my stringer, which was tied, not looped, onto a belt loop of my jeans.  Another lesson learned, “Never tie always loop.”  Two bites and the shark, a 4 foot plus black tip, clipped off the last 2 trout on my stringer, swirled around me, brushed my leg again, and came up to the surface and grabbed the last trout, all of this right by my right hand that was futilely trying to pull the fish away from the shark.

Hearing Richard laughing, I didn’t think this was funny at all being left with 3 trout heads on my stringer, heart racing and he was laughing.  Earl Galceran must have kept these sharks around as pets to feed on his “guest’s” fish.  Quickly getting out of the water, I sat on the bank for a while cooling off and by that time Richard, still laughing, came out of the water with 5 nice ones on his stringer.  He said “You ready to call it a day.”  Not replying, I just turned around and started back to the car.

In 1970 I went back to this place by boat, a big chemical plant had been built in the mid ‘60’s, on Chocolate Bayou which feeds into Lower West Galveston Bay above Earl’s old place and the grass was gone, trout fishing had changed in Lower West Bay to anchoring on reefs, fishing under the birds or drifting, very little wading.  Earl Galceran moved to a houseboat set up in the Chandleur Islands off of the Louisiana/Mississippi coasts.  From what I have heard, he took some of his sharks with him.

That summer, Richard Foster went on active duty at Ft. Hood as a Platoon Leader in a basic training company.  One of his recruits was Elvis Pressley, but that’s another story.

More Outdoors Pictures, June 24,2012

It’s been over 2 weeks since we’ve had rain, but the 1.5 inches we had 2 weeks ago Thursday came in the nick of time.  Now, the hay is growing the fields are green and, with another rain, we’ll have a good crop!  However, many of the doe are still carrying fawns, 2 are pictured below.
The horns on the bucks look good and it appears we’ll have a good “horn” year.  The buck on the right is already well outside of his ears, but it looks like they’ve already gone nocturnal and they aren’t coming to the feeder either.

Finally, a fawn showed up!  Here’s one with her doe going to water.  The doe looks like she’s carrying another fawn?  If you look close on the second “shot”, the spots show.
Doe are usually fairly docile, but this one is letting the doe on the left know something is wrong.  Maybe she’s browsing on too much corn?


Being a good Texas boy, my only exposure to Mexico had been to the sleazy border towns, but now, in 1971, to see the budding metropolis of Mazatlan, its traffic, 500,000 inhabitants, now over a million, beautiful harbor and recent awakening to Gringo tourists, was a real eye opener for my ex wife and I.

Having moved to Phoenix in January, during the following summer all of our new friends were excited about Mazatlan, Mexico. At the time a quaint old town located on the mainland directly across the mouth of El Golfo from Cabo San Lucas. Their excitement was kindled because you could catch the Ferrocarril Del Norte (Iron Horse Of The North), ie tren or train, in Nogales, Mexico, right across the border from Nogales, Arizona. Then it was a 12, hour, plus or minus, overnight trip depositing the travelers in Mazatlan. Shopping and partying were the sports of most, but for me it was the fishing and finding out later, the fine hunting, too!

Our first trip’s accommodations were at the Playa Mazatlan, the best spot in town that only catered to wealthy Mexican families, but they did take U.S. dollars. It was right on the beach, clean rooms, but no air conditioning and once you got past the night sounds of Mexico, music, horns, laughter and the roaring surf, you slept like a log. Within a year of our first trip the Playa offered air conditioning.

Sleeping in the first morning, we got up and rented a “Yeep”, a Volkswagen Monster, then headed south from the Playa toward the harbor to set up a fishing trip. To the left, on the way to the harbor, as we rounded a long curve, there, on the corner of the first floor of a multi story building, was “El Shrimp Bucket”. Pulling a uwey I shouted “I’ve got to stop there,” and pulled in right in front.

There was an atrium inside the building, much like the atriums we have in our prime office space, but the first floor was a big patio, and to the left was “El Shrimp Bucket”. Little did I know that the patio was part of the restaurant, but 12 years later I would witness a very unusual display in that very patio, which is, as they say, another story.

Entering and picking a booth with an ocean view, we checked the menu. A bucket of shrimp for $4.95US and since it was 10:45 AM, why not enjoy lunch. Lunch was served and mine was a full bucket of fried shrimp, not as good as Clary’s or Casey’s in Galveston, but probably a close third. Out of this world fried onion rings and guacamole were served separately and washed down with Margaritas, it was a feast!

As we were leaving, I noticed a picture of John Wayne, my favorite, hanging over the door and he had signed the picture, as best I remember, “Best shrimp ever! Duke”. Having met him once in Las Vegas, but for the next 12 years, El Shrimp Bucket was my headquarters in Mazatlan, but I never saw “Duke” there.

More Outdoors Pictures, June 18, 2012

Just toward dark Friday, a week ago, in the field behind my house, I saw a drama played out.  Two hundred yards away, a turkey hen was moving her brood, 6 poults, 12 to 14 weeks old, that I’ve spotted before, across the field.

A yearling doe that had not been bred the past season got too close and bedlam erupted, I’m sure the doe was just curious.  While the brood took off for the thick cover, the turkey charged the yearling, almost flying into it,. The yearling, pictured below, still looking at the turkey, scampered back under the fence, escaping her wrath, while another doe was staring at the ruckus.
Of course I didn’t have the camera, but I ran to the old house and picked it up quickly and started taking pictures.  A picture of the turkey shows her neck stretched out looking for a fight.

And finally, another doe is looking at the turkey, being behind a tree gave me pretty good cover, but the older doe saw me move.

Having never seen this happen before, I was amazed by the turkey hen’s aggression.  When the yearling doe got too close, she exploded into it, giving no thought that she was outweighed by, at least, 40 pounds, but protection of her brood, instinct, was the most important thing.

A Big Blow

A series of stories about Rocky Point, Mexico wouldn’t be complete without the severe thunderstorm we endured, tented out on the beach there. These storms are called chubascos, a chubasco, according to Marquez and Wold’s “Compilation Of Colonial Spanish Terms”, is a violent summer storm common to the Sea of Cortes (El Golfo) and surrounding lands.

These storms are much like our “Purple Thunderers” along the Texas Gulf Coast. Having been caught on the water in 3 of these monsters and until safely reaching shore, I was scared to death each time! During a trip to Rocky Point, Mexico, one caught my family and I and my in-laws on land and it was a doozy!

My family, 3 kids and ex-wife and her parents, “Memaw” and “Papaw” Buck, drove down on a Friday to Rocky Point to camp in our tent for the weekend. Friday night we cooked on the beach and enjoyed a restful, caressed by a light breeze, sleep. Saturday was spent sight seeing, 4 wheeling and, when the tide was out, gathering shellfish from the numerous rocks.

We cooked the mussels and oysters on Saturday night and the gentle lapping of the surf provided a background for the magnificent star show overhead. As we were turning in, we noticed lightning flashes on the horizon, and thought, a nice exclamation point for a fun day.

Crack! Boom! Crack! Boom! The lightning was striking close by. Crack! Boom! Closer still. The wind was picking up as I unzipped the tents front door, and was greeted by a mix of sand and rain and quickly zipping up, Crack Boom right down the beach lightning hit something! Everyone was awake and a collective “What’s the noise? Is it a storm? What can we do?” My reply was, “Nothing, were stuck here until it blows over.” And, it almost blew us over.

Sleep was impossible, but everyone hunkered down and waited. Lightning flashed, thunder roared, rain and sand slammed into the tent and the wind blew with a frightening velocity, bending all the tent poles. Soon it passed, we went back to sleep, not even bothering to unzip the tent flap and look outside.

Waking up early, we went and surveyed the area. Almost everything, except for our tent and cars, was blown off of the beach. A sign was shattered, probably, by the lightning and our tent, the poles being bent from the wind was tilted at a funny angle. Closer inspection revealed that the tent poles were all bent in the same direction, I’m sure by the wind. Hopefully, the combined weight of 4 adults and 3 kids helped to anchor us to the ground?

How far we would have rolled? I’ve thought about this many times, if our tent pins would have come loose, we probably would have rolled back to Phoenix!

More Outdoors Pictures, June 12, 2012

The game cams keep clicking away, I probably had 400 “shots” to look through, culling them out and came up with 5 that were different and interesting.

The first “shot” shows a coon walking away from the water trough and I call this one “A Coon In The Afternoon.”  Further thought on the “shot” leads me to think that this coon may be rabid, why, because he’s walking away from the water, a rabid animal will not drink water and the game cam would have taken the “shot” if he’d watered.  There’s been a warning around here for rabid skunks, but rabies is readily transmitted and just one bite and the coon’s a carrier.

The next “shot” shows a doe that’s really pregnant and will drop the fawn soon.  Then 3 doe come to the feeder and, of course, they’re showing too.
Then 2 bucks come by the feeder and their horns are growing, both will be fine bucks this year, one is almost 4, the other is only 3.  By hunting season the first buck will be 4-1/2 and huntible, he’ll be scarce then!

Now for the real question, what is this animal?  Is it a hog?  Is it some kind of a dog?  No tail is visible, it doesn’t seem to have much of a coat and from the height of the water trough, it definitely is not a deer.  My guess is a young hog, maybe 50 pounds, but it could be a chupacabra?

Great Memories

The 3/8’s ounce Mr. Champ spoon with a small sardinero attached, abruptly stopped like I was hung up on a rock or something, then it, whatever it was, took off, stripping off maybe 30 yards of 15 pound line. Finally the rod, a 6-1/2 foot popping rod and the drag took its toll, the fish stopped, took off again on a shorter run, then grudgingly came in and I slid it up on to the beach. Lying on the sand, the “it” was now a 19 inch, bonefish, maybe 2 pounds! Imaging that, a bonefish caught in St. John’s Bay, 10 miles south of Puerto Penasco, Mexico. Going to the encyclopedia, it showed me that Albula vulpes is the Florida strain of these speedsters, while the Pacific variety is Albula esuncula, basically the same fish.

Tossing the bonefish back into the water, I rebaited and cast out. It wasn’t long before I had another strike this fish didn’t take off like the bonefish, but cleared the water, shaking its head like a tarpon, it looked like a snook to me, but I’d never caught one, but as I reeled it in and up on the beach, sure enough, it was a snook. Wow, on my first 2 casts into the cut between El Golfo and St. John’s Bay, I had caught a bonefish and a snook, both firsts for me!

The fishing was great I caught another snook, probably both were a black snook. However, we loaded up on 2 to 3 pound, corvina, great fighters, a fish that resembles our Gulf Coast white trout, but this trout grows to a size of up to 30 pounds!

It wasn’t hard to get to the place, just a long sandy drive I thought, but boy, was I wrong, because on one excursion to Rocky Point, several of the locals asked me to accompany them to “The Cut”, a 200 foot wide, cut and channel leading from El Golfo into a small bay, St John’s Bay. The trip was 10 miles down the beach, not hard packed sand like along the Texas coast, but fine volcanic sand, which refused to pack. It was a 10, mile trip from Hell, 4 WD all the way. Tires deflated to 8, yes 8 pounds each! Skeletons of disabled trucks littered the beach and if you broke down, chances were the truck just stayed, rusted out and sank into the sand. It was an exciting experience to make a suspense filled trip to a remote fishing spot, hammer the fish, then come back out in the dark, engines roaring, sand flying and finally making it back to civilization in one piece.

We made a total of 4 trips to “The Cut”, all great fun and good fishing! Great memories!

Puerto Penasco

Puerto Penasco, Mexico was at the end of a 2, lane road built by the U.S. Army Engineers. During the early part of WWII, things weren’t going well for the Allies, a Japanese invasion of the west coast of the U.S. was expected and our Government needed a port on the Pacific Ocean to move materiel and troops to thwart the expected invasion, hence the nice 2, lane road to Puerto Penasco.

The upper end of El Golfo, the Gulf of California, is the final destination of the western Colorado River. The same river that roars through the Grand Canyon meekly trickles into the top end of El Golfo at San Louis, Mexico, 60 miles southeast of San Louis is Puerto Penasco, or Rocky Point, as the local Arizonans called it.

Local Arizonans, yes local Arizonans. At the time, around 200 families had established an American colony there centered around, fishing and relaxing. The beach houses were minimum standard, but sufficient for occasional use by their lessors. At the time, Gringos couldn’t own property in Mexico. The two best facilities at Rocky Point were the boat storage area, patrolled by the local police and fenced with concertina wire around the top, and the boat launching equipment.

My boat, at the time, was an 18 foot, tri hull, with 2, 60 HP outboards, with 2 internal, 24 gallon gas tanks. Loaded out it would cruise at 25 and had a range of 75 miles. We caught some very nice fish, sea bass, grouper, corvina, snook, bonefish and Queen triggerfish. I won a category of a tournament there in 1973 with a 10, pound triggerfish. Once we approached to within 20 feet of a huge whale, at a minimum, twice the length of the boat!

An unusual feature of Rocky Point were the extreme tidal fluctuations caused by its location at the top of El Golfo, which is several hundred miles long and for a large body of water, very narrow, 50 to a hundred miles wide. Tidal pressure going in and out causes wide fluctuations at Rocky Point. The Bay of Fundy, in Nova Scotia, is the only spot in the world with greater tidal fluctuation.

Several times we took part in one of the local sporting events, a vehicle mountain climbing race. The objective being to drive to the top of a local mountain in a wash, this wash was a sandy, boulder lined, strip that made it all the way to a road that ran along the top of the mountain. We tried it at different times in both of my vehicles, a 1968, 4WD Ford Bronco and a 1973, 4WD, Dodge Power Wagon, neither one made it to the top, but the Power Wagon came within 50 yards! One funny thing, both trucks just played out and wouldn’t pull through the sand, finally with great roaring and sand flying they both just stopped!

In 1973 or 74, my memory fades, robbers stopped 2 people driving back to Arizona from Rocky Point, obviously touristas, shot them and stole their belongings. About 2 weeks later, the Federales, or “Green Hornets” as they were called, posing as tourists captured and shot the attackers! For the time being this stopped all of the criminal activity coming and going to Rocky Point.

From our first boat launch to our last trip down we thoroughly enjoyed “South Of The Border, Down Mexico Way.”

Beach Party

During the late spring of 1970, the wind refused to blow, maybe in the afternoon it would gust to 12 or 15, but by nightfall it would lay, this was very unusual for the upper Texas coast! The clear, blue/green water came right up to the beach, closely followed by the pelagic species of fish, cobia, bonita, ling, little tunny and king mackerel that were caught off of both Galveston Jetties, and the bonus, the big, golden, gulf shrimp, on the incoming tides, could be seen, jumping in what masqueraded as the surf and the shrimp boats came in close, over the second sand bar and plied their trade not 50 yards off the beach!

Normally the big shrimp are found in deep water, miles out in the Gulf, but the calm conditions had them crowding the shoreline. We, Jim Buck, Norman Shelter and myself figured that we would seine them, just like seining for bait in a river.

First off, Norman had a 300-foot, net that his dad used for seining speckled trout from the surf, we considered this a despicable practice, but would use it for this shrimping occasion. Jim had a 10-foot skiff and I had a 5 HP motor and he could pull the end of the net out into the surf, past the third sand bar, where the water was over our heads. Then he would turn and pull the net back to where the pullers would take over.

We had to find some pullers quick and, luckily, our friends and their families filled the bill. Along with the explanation of our plan, we invited; Gary and Kathy, Vic and Shelly, Tony and Dee, and all their kids, and all 3 couples quickly accepted.

At 8:30 AM, the next Saturday morning, the weekend after Memorial Day, we were all on the beach, by the Jamaica Beach subdivision, complete with all of our equipment including a big, black, cooking pot, like my Grandma Bryan used to make lye soap in. We were ready!

Our planning was perfect and all went as planned, Norman and I anchored the land end of the net, Jim ferried the end out into the Gulf, turned and came back a ways, then Vic, Tony and Gary took over and pulled the net up toward the beach. All was fine until the pullers felt a big push, not a tug, but a push. Like something big trying to break through the net, Norman and I were in ankle deep water, but the pullers were waste deep, and feeling the push, they dropped the end of the net and made speed for shore.

The first thing that we could see was the wake, then the dorsal fin of a big shark, circle out of danger, our estimate was that it was well over 6 foot long. The pullers, unanimously, refused to go back into the deep water and volunteered to become the anchormen, leaving the job of finishing the pull to Norman and me. We questioned if anything would be in the net, but waded out and finished the job! The kids loved the excitement!

The shark escaped, but the net had made a sack, and, sure enough, there were 5 specs, many, crabs and over 50 pounds of huge gulf shrimp. We built a fire, filled our pot with 3/4 water and ¼ salt water, added a box or shrimp boil, pulled one claw off of each crab and threw the crabs back in the Gulf, filleted and diced 2 specks, releasing the other 3, and cleaned and headed the shrimp, put it all into the pot, along with some corn on the cob and potatoes, and waited for everything to cook.

To say the least, we drew a crowd of interested onlookers. Six of us fit the part of “beach bums”, Norman, Jim, myself, our wives and our kids were brown as natives, and our 6 guests and their kids were getting sunburned! The food was ready to eat, then it dawned on us, we had no plates or eating utensils, so off to Red’s, Seven Seas Grocery to pick some up. Of course Red and all of his hangers on wanted to come to the festivities! Why not, we had enough fresh shrimp and crab claws for all!

The party ended at midnight, and to say the least, we didn’t go fishing the next morning!